Lightning Review: The Mummy (2017)

The Mummy (2017) movie posterSynopsis
Nick Morrison (Tom Cruise) and his friend Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) accidentally uncover the tomb of Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), an ancient Egyptian princess who had been buried for fear of her supernatural powers. When Ahmanet’s powers begin to return, Nick is chosen to finish the ritual Ahmanet started before she was entombed and he is thrust into an unknown world of monsters and dark creatures.

Review
As a cinefile, it is usually very easy to say whether or not I liked a movie but sometimes it can be hard to determine the why. This is the case for me with The Mummy. On the surface, it has many elements that I like in a film. Tom Cruise brings excitement to the action scenes. Jake Johnson, one of my favorite actors from New Girl, is a good comedic relief character, even if he does seem slightly out of place. The gorgeous Sofia Boutella as the titular mummy has an air of terror around her and gives a horror factor to the movie. So there are all these film elements that I enjoy, so why didn’t I enjoy this one? Maybe the issue is that I didn’t know what kind of movie I was watching. There were action pieces, humorous moments, and horror situations. There were all of these components that I couldn’t figure out what this movie was trying to do. Was it trying to be exciting? Scary? Funny? Individually, these parts are good and enjoyable here but when put together, they lose their strength and make for an inconsistent experience.

I thought The Mummy was OK 😐 When I hear β€œThe Mummy,” I always think of the 1999 Brendan Frasier version. What keeps bringing me back to that version is it is adventurous and fun and cheesy and it knows it and embraces it. This movie tries to incorporate some of that but also tries to go back to its horror roots of the 1930s original. The final product is a movie that doesn’t know what kind of movie it wants to be and it hurts the overall experience.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Alex Kurtzman – Director / Story
David Koepp – Screenplay
Christopher McQuarrie – Screenplay
Dylan Kussman – Screenplay
Jon Spaihts – Story
Jenny Lumet – Story
Brian Tyler – Composer

Tom Cruise – Nick Morton
Annabelle Wallis – Jenny Halsey
Sofia Boutella – Ahmanet
Jake Johnson – Chris Vail
Russell Crowe – Dr. Henry Jekyll
Courtney B. Vance – Colonel Greenway
Marwan Kenzari – Malik

Wonder Woman Review

Wonder Woman movie posterSynopsis
Princess Diana (Gal Gadot) and the Amazons live in isolation from the rest of the world on the island of Themyscira, preparing for the return of Ares, the god of war. When Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), an American pilot and spy, crashes onto the island and tells of a β€œwar to end all wars” in the outside world, Diana, convinced Ares is behind the conflict, leaves her home with Trevor to stop Ares and end the war.

Review
A Wonder Woman film has been a long time coming. Of DC’s β€œtrinity” (Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman) she is the only character to not receive her own live-action film. In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is easily the highlight of the movie. So how does she do starring front and center in her own film? Well, I can happily say Wonder Woman is the movie the fans have been waiting for in her 75+ year history.

Warner Bros. made an absolutely great casting choice with Gal Gadot. She captures every aspect about the character perfectly. She can be soft and gentle in one scene, like when she was excited to see a baby, or warm and caring in another, like when she had her moments with her team, then she can be strong and tough in the next scene, like when she single-handedly enters No Man’s Land. Gadot gave Diana a sense naivety and wonder about about the world but still felt powerful. I could go on but I’d feel like I was repeating myself. In short, she was positively wonderful.

As great as Gadot was as the titular character, that’s not even my favorite part. I think what I liked best about Wonder Woman was that it actually had a sense of adventure. Also, it wasn’t dark like Batman v Superman or Man of Steel, and it actually had humorous moments. It never became overly doom and gloom, like the previous DC Extended Universe (DCEU) films, nor did it feel as lighthearted as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films. There was a nice balance between the seriousness and the fun sides of the movie.

Every superhero movie these days is building towards the next movie or several movies in the universe, well the DCEU and MCU films do anyway. This is a double edge sword because on one hand, it is fun to see the different characters interact with each other but on the other it can make the movie feel bloated or unfocused. Another one of Wonder Woman‘s strengths is that it doesn’t have this problem. It is completely self-contained. It is book-ended with scenes showcasing where in the DCEU chronology it takes place, but everything in between is its own thing. This works out great because then that means the movie can stay centered on Wonder Woman herself without having to worry about anybody else or future plot points.

Because the film’s focus is strictly on Wonder Woman, the story is very tight and focused for a superhero movie. There are no extra characters. Everyone exists to push Diana’s story forward. Every scene serves a purpose of building Diana’s character or the conflict she faces. There is nothing extraneous, nothing without purpose, or nothing without reason. It is a refreshing change of pace to to see a superhero movie that only focuses on whose name is in the title instead of worrying about anybody else or future plot points.

I mentioned the perfect casting of Gal Gadot but I have to commend the rest of the cast as well. Chris Pine was a great choice as the male lead. He feels like a good, grounded counter to Gadot’s innocent Diana. SaΓ―d Taghmaoui as the team’s quick-talking Sameer was a blast to watch. I would have liked to learn just a little bit more about Ewen Bremner’s Charlie and Eugene Brave Rock’s The Chief. Both seem like they have some interesting histories that were barely touched on. However, the highlight for me was any scene with Lucy Davis as Steve Trevor’s secretary Etta Candy. She was an absolute hoot and stole all her scenes. It’s a little disappointing knowing this will be the only time spent with the character because I cold use more Etta Candy in my life.

Like many superhero films, the weakest part of Wonder Woman comes from its villains. General Erich Ludendorff (Danny Hudson) and Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya) are the main baddies but they only act as the personification of the evil Diana is trying to stop; There isn’t much to them. It feels like they are villains almost simply because they are Nazis. Ares could be called the overarching villain and big bad of the movie. Yet, his presence isn’t really felt until the very end. And even then, he is very underwhelming. I guess I can’t fault the movie too much since it gets so much else right.

I thought Wonder Woman was GREAT πŸ˜€ Director Patty Jenkins has finally done what every other DC director since Christopher Nolan could not: create a good superhero movie. Gal Gadot strikes a perfect balance of innocence and strength. The movie mirrors that and isn’t too lighthearted but also isn’t dark and gritty. Diana’s sense of justice and need to do the right thing is the tone we should have seen from Superman in Man of Steel. Hopefully WB and DC will keep Jenkins around because she has been their most successful director yet.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Patty Jenkins – Director
Allan Heinberg – Screenplay / Story
Zach Snyder – Story
Jason Fuchs – Story
Rupert Gregson-Williams – Composer

Gal Gadot – Diana Prince / Wonder Woman
Chris Pine – Steve Trevor
Connie Nielsen – Hippolyta
Robin Wright – Antiope
David Thewlis – Sir Patrick
SaΓ―d Taghmaoui – Sameer
Ewen Bremner – Charlie
Eugene Brave Rock – The Chief
Lucy Davis – Etta Candy
Danny Hudson – General Erich Ludendorff
Elena Anaya – Dr. Maru
Lilly Aspell – Young Diana (8)

Lightning Review: Baywatch

Baywatch movie posterSynopsis
Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) and his team of lifeguards protect the beaches of Emerald Bay, Florida. When drugs start appearing on his beach, Buchannon and his team, including new recruit and former Olympic swimmer Matt Brody (Zac Efron), work to expose the criminal behind the drugs, Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra).

Review
I don’t know much about the Baywatch television series, other than it starred Pamela Anderson and David Hasselhoff as lifeguards, as well as gratuitous amounts of slow-motion running. Based on the cast of Baywatch and the tone of the trailers, I figured this movie would have little to do with the show its characters come from. So while I can’t make any comparisons to the source material, I can tell you how it stacked up as a movie: it was hilarious. Both Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron can be very comedic actors. Yet, if they don’t have a good person to bounce off of, their one-liners can only do so much. These two together have fantastic chemistry and are absolutely side-splitting. Every scene had jokes flying rapid fire and while not all of them stuck, they were onto the next one before you could really process it.

Most of the jokes between Johnson and Efron consist of crude and insulting jokes and one-liners. Like all humor, it is subjective, so it might not be your cup of tea but if you’ve read any of my other comedy reviews, you’ll know that this my kind of comedy. Of course, the rest of the cast was good as well, particularly Yahya Abdul-Mateen and Pryanka Chopra. Abdul-Mateen has some funny lines as a local police officer exhausted of the lifeguards trying to be investigators. Last summer I binged season one of the show Quantico, which stars Chopra as the protagonist. It was fun to see her on the other side as the antagonist. Since the setting for this movie is on a beach, there are a lot of shirtless men and bikini-clad women. No matter your preference, there is plenty of eye candy for everyone. πŸ˜‰

I thought Baywatch was GREAT πŸ˜€ I’m sure that if compared to the original Baywatch television series, these two have nothing in common. However, as a film taken on its own merit, it is fun and humorous. In the next few years, it will be interesting to see how the film and the jokes hold up. It feels like a generic action-comedy you would expect these days, but it is a generic action-comedy I enjoyed from start to finish.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Seth Gordon – Director
Jay Scherick – Story
David Ronn – Story
Thomas Lennon – Story
Robert Ben Garant – Story
Damian Shannon – Screenplay
Mark Swift – Screenplay
Christopher Lennertz – Composer

Dwayne Johnson – Mitch Buchannon
Zac Efron – Matt Brody
Alexandra Daddario – Summer Quinn
Kelly Rohrbach – CJ Parker
Ilfenesh Hadera – Stephanie Holden
Jon Bass – Ronnie Greenbaum
Rob Huebel – Captain Thorpe
Pryanka Chopra – Victoria Leeds
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II – Sgt. Garner Ellerbee
Amim Joseph – Frankie
Jack Kesy – Leon
Hannibul Buress – Dave the Tech
Oscar NuΓ±ez – Councilman Rodriguez
Clem Cheung – Murray Chen

Power Rangers Review

Power Rangers movie posterSynopsis
When five teenagers find mysterious coins that grant them superhuman strength, they learn about about a powerful evil that will consume the world. They must figure out how to work together as a team or risk the destruction of the Earth.

Review
Growing up as a young boy in the 90s, The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers were huge for me. On the playground, it was always a debate on who got to play the Red Ranger, and later the Green Ranger, during recess. My best friend and I would fight hordes of imaginary Putties (the generic villainous foot soldiers) for hours on end. You might say that the biggest reason I went to see this movie was to relive that piece of my childhood. Out of all the old franchises that are once again seeing the light of day, leaving the theater after watching Power Rangers left me with the largest nostalgia high I’ve had in a very long time.

Say what you will about the television version of the Power Rangers, one thing it has always been extremely good at is having a diverse cast. This latest movie version maintains that diversity and even expands to be more than ethnic diversity, with an autistic and a lesbian rangers. I’m glad to see that a franchise that is all about teamwork and friendship, and is geared more towards a younger audiences embraces such inclusion.

To be honest, I never considered Mighty Morphin Power Rangers to be about superheroes. This mostly because that the first thing that comes to mind are characters like Spider-Man, Wolverine, or Batman. For all intents and purposes, the Power Rangers are superheroes, and this film treats them as such. The Rangers don’t fully utilize their abilities until the final battle with Rita. But more than that, it takes its time to develop the characters. Power Rangers does a good job of building each of the five main characters. By the time they finally come together as a team, you have a good grasp of who the characters are yourself.

The television version of Power Rangers is considerably campy. Luckily, this movie never goes quite that absurd. Several years ago, there was an exceedingly gritty version of the Power Rangers on YouTube that was very much R-rated. This movie never gets anywhere near that extreme. This film is a middle between the two of them, maybe leaning a little bit closer to the television version. It does have hints of the silliness of the television show but it almost feel like it is there as a callback to the show since that’s just how the show is.

Going into the film, I wasn’t sure about how I felt about Elizabeth Banks as Rita. I’ve never much pictured her as the cackling-villain type. However, she wasn’t half-bad at the part. Banks totally embraced the character of Rita Repulsa and gave a performance that was part terrifying and part reminiscent of the 90s version of the villain. Her unique take on Rita fit well into the movie’s universe and I can’t wait to see if she gets to revisit the character.

I thought Power Rangers was GREAT πŸ˜€ The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was such a big part of my childhood that I would not miss this film in theaters. I’ll admit that it wasn’t perfect but it also had no right being as entertaining as it was. Some people might find it uneven in places (which it was) or not care much for the characters. As for me, I had two hours of pure fun and joy and a smile on my face almost the entire time and dammit if that isn’t enough for me!

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Dean Israelite – Director
John Gatins – Screenplay
Matt Sazama – Story
Burk Sharpless – Story
Michele Mulroney – Story
Kieran Mulroney – Story
Brian Tyler – Composer

Dacre Montgomery – Jason (Red Ranger)
Naomi Scott – Kimberly (Pink Ranger)
RJ Cyler – Billy (Blue Ranger)
Ludi Lin – Zack (Black Ranger)
Becky G. – Trini (Yellow Ranger)
Elizabeth Banks – Rita Repulsa
Bryan Cranston – Zordon
Bill Hader – Alpha 5 (voice)

Logan Review

Logan movie posterSynopsis
In 2029, mutant-kind is on the brink of extinction.Β  An aged Logan (Hugh Jackman) is hiding in Mexico with Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Caliban (Stephen Merchant).Β  When a woman finds Logan and asks for his help to transport her daughter, Laura (Dafne Keen), to a supposed mutant haven known as Eden, Logan and Charles set out for the US-Canada border while protecting Laura from Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) and his band of Reavers.

Review
Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in X-Men is one of those castings that was perfect.Β  Over the years, he has put his heart and soul into the role and has come to embody the character. It’s one of those actor/role combinations that I can’t imagine any other way.Β  Now, after 17 years and nine films, Jackman retracts the claws for good and hangs up the cowl, but not before giving the best performance of the character yet.

The X-Men movies have all fallen victim to having too many characters to juggle.Β  Some have adapted and made it work well (X-2: X-Men United), others have not (X-Men: Apocalypse). Even the other Wolverine movies have felt bloating with the amount of support characters they have tried to include.Β  Logan, on the other hand, keeps the focus very much on Logan, Charles, and Laura. There is a reason it is called β€œLogan” and not something like Wolverine 3.Β  The character moments are what drive the story forward.Β  The little interactions between Logan and Charles, who has become somewhat of a father-figure to Logan, and Logan and Laura, who in essence has become his daughter, feel intimate and authentic.Β  There are other characters as well but they are antagonists whose purpose is to move the story forward.

Logan is the most mature and darkest of not just any X-Man movie but superhero movies in general.Β  I don’t just mean β€œmature” with the violence but how it approaches the characters as well.Β  As I mentioned before, this story is all about Logan, Charles, and Laura as a bizarre, mutant family.Β  Most superhero movies tell a story around the characters’ superpowers. This movie, on the other hand, tell a story about characters who happen to have superpowers.Β  This makes it unlike any superhero that has come before.

After the success of Deadpool, Fox decided to go with an R-rating for Logan, which is something the character has been missing all these years. Wolverine has always been an aggressive, violent character and his cinematic version has always felt to me that he has been held back by the PG-13 rating.Β  Now, the character can really let loose.Β  Logan takes full advantage of the R-rating, showing even that an aged Logan is something to be feared.Β  This film would not have worked if it was restrained by a lower rating.Β  Laura is a younger, more rough-around-the-edges Wolverine, whose pure savageness needed to be unfiltered.

This film is a lot longer than it feels.Β  With a runtime of over two and a half hours, it just flew by.Β  I felt invested in the characters and the story.Β  It had its action moments and its character moments. It was never moving too fast nor did it ever feel like it was dragging.Β  There was a perfect balance between the loud action sequences and the quieter character moments.

I thought Logan was GREAT πŸ˜€ You’d be hard pressed to find someone who has come to embody a character the way Hugh Jackman has become Wolverine.Β  As a farewell performance for the character, Jackman gives the best performance of the character to date.Β  A tight familial dynamic between Logan, Charles, and Laura and intense and exciting action scenes make Logan not just good Wolverine movie but a great movie in general.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
James Mangold – Director / Story / Screenplay
Scott Frank – Screenplay
Michael Green – Screenplay
Marco Beltrami – Composer

Hugh Jackman – Logan
Patrick Stewart – Charles Xavier
Dafne Keen – Laura Keen
Boyd Holbrook – Donald Pierce
Stephen Merchant – Caliban
Elizabeth Rodriguez – Gabriela
Richard E. Grant – Dr. Zander Rice
Eriq La Salle – Will Munson
Elise Neal – Kathryn Munson
Quincy Fouse – Nate Munson

Wild Wild West Review

This review was originally posted for the Ultimate 90s Blogathon, hosted by Tranquil Dreams and me.

Wild Wild West movie posterSynopsis
Army Captain James West (Will Smith) is tasked by President Grant (Kevin Kline) to work together with US Marshal Artemus Gordon (Kevin Kline) to find the ex-Confederate scientist Dr. Arliss Loveless (Kenneth Branagh) before he can take over the United States government.

Review
Wild Wild West was a go-to movie for my friend and I back when we were growing up. Between the two of us, we could (and still can!) quote the movie in its entirety. Having watched this many times over the years, I acknowledge that the nostalgia factor might affect my enjoyment of the film, as I have found several flaws since watching it as a young lad. However, that doesn’t mean it still can’t be enjoyed on its own merits.

Right out the gate, this movie is goofy. Not funny, although it is that too, but goofy. Artemis Gordon’s inventions feel a little too perfect for the situations they get Gordon and Jim West out of. Arliss Loveless’ beard rivals Crane’s beard from The Hunger Games for most intricate movie beard, acting as the proverbial β€œI’m the bad guy” sign. Loveless’ invention to bring the β€œUS government to its knees” is a giant, steam-punk tarantula. Everything about this movie screams β€œSaturday morning cartoon.” Nevertheless, it has a sense of fun that many film miss, which is why it still works for even as I’ve grown older. Wild Wild West never takes itself seriously, making it fun for both the actors and the audience.

The humor can be seen as a little juvenile, like the scene below, but that kind of humor is what I like. Will Smith and John Kline are enjoyable to watch together. This film came out relatively early in Smith’s film career. It is fun to see how he has brought the same energy and personality to his characters throughout all of his movies, whether they were in the 90s, when he started film acting, or today. I’ll admit I haven’t seen many of Kline’s films to compare Artemis Gordon to his other roles but his comedy here is more subtle than Smith’s which works because having two boisterous comedians would be too much.

Besides the two leads, the other two big supporting actors, Salma Hayek and Kenneth Branagh are clearly having a good time too. The often scantily clad Hayek is obviously there for the eye candy and to give West and Gordon someone to compete for, but it doesn’t appear to bother her and she gives a memorable performance. Branagh gets fully into the maniacal villain role. It’s cartoonish and over the top but he steals his every scene he’s in.

I thought Wild Wild West was GOOD πŸ™‚ It isn’t afraid to be silly and have fun with itself, which might turn off other viewers but I really enjoyed that. Everyone, from Will Smith and Kevin Kline to Salma Hayek and Kennith Branagh, feel like they are enjoying themselves. I grew up watching this film regularly and although its imperfections have become more apparent over the years, it still is every bit the fun, adventurous romp I remember it to be.

Favorite Scene

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Barry Sonnenfeld – Director
Jim Thomas – Story
John Thomas – Story
SS Wilson – Screenplay
Brent Maddock – Screenplay
Jefferey Price – Screenplay
Peter S Seaman – Screenplay
Elmer Bernstein – Composer

Will Smith – James West
Kevin Kline – Artemis Gordon / President Ulysses S Grant
Kenneth Branagh – Dr. Arliss Loveless
Salma Hayek – Rita Escobar
M. Emmet Walsh – Coleman
Ted Levine – General β€œBloodbath” McGrath
Frederique van der Wal – Amazonia
Musetta Vander – Munitia
Sofia Eng – Miss Lippenrieder
Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon – Belle
Bai Ling – Miss East